Kazakh, Hungarian Cooperation Increases during Hungarian FM’s First Visit

ASTANA – Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártófollowed their Feb. 19 meeting by signing a working plan between the foreign ministries for 2015-16.

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“Kazakhstan is our strategic partner in Central Asia. Hungary continues to aim to develop cooperation with Kazakhstan,” said the Hungarian minister during his first visit to the Central Asian country.

The agenda of the meeting embraced cooperation in bilateral and multilateral formats and approaches to international problems such as the situations in Ukraine and Syria, efforts to stabilise Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear programme and others. The main focus was on preparation for an official visit by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Astana scheduled for this spring.

Idrissov stated that Szijjártó’s first visit and Orban’s upcoming one would be important milestones in the history of bilateral relations and foster the efficient implementation of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership.

“We have set plans and specific cooperation projects which will be launched during the visit of the prime minister of the brotherly country to Kazakhstan,” Idrissov said, adding that the focus would be on specific approaches to development of bilateral trade and economic relations.

The Kazakh minister underlined that Hungary could open new opportunities for Kazakhstan to promote its interests in the European and international arenas. “We have very good relations with Hungary; we really appreciate, cherish and value our fraternal relations. Hungary is well aware of our priorities in Europe and serves as a bridge to Europe,” he added.

Commenting on prospects of advancing relations between integrations, Szijjártó highlighted that for its further development Europe needs to be open and expand relations with developing countries and establish a dialogue with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

“Hungary has consistently supported Kazakhstan’s aspirations to deepen relations with the European Union, as well as its intentions to complete the process of accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which we hope will happen in the near future,” he said, confirming also that Hungary would support Kazakhstan in negotiations with the EU on easing visa regime.

“Hungary believes that the cooperation with the Eurasian [Economic] Union will contribute considerably to the success of the European Union. I am confident that our Kazakh-Hungarian relations can play a big role in such cooperation between the EU and the EAEU. We will work together,” he added.

Assessing economic cooperation, the parties highlighted the need to expand the volume of bilateral trade and the number of joint ventures.

“We pay great attention to the development of our trade and economic relations. Kazakhstan is our biggest partner in Central Asia; our foreign trade turnover in 2013 exceeded $261 million and we see much room for improvement in this area,” said the Hungarian minister.

Fifty Kazakh-Hungarian joint enterprises are currently operating in Kazakhstan and the Hungarian Trading House, Working Group on Industry and Innovation and Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation have been established.

The two ministers listed high-tech development, promotion of projects in the oil and gas and agricultural fields, pharmaceuticals, tourism, construction, nuclear and automotive industries, transport and innovation as the most promising areas of cooperation.

“Our bilateral cooperation in the field of tourism remains undeveloped. We support cooperation between our travel agencies, the exchange of experience and mutual participation in the activities undertaken by the two countries. I am convinced that holding EXPO 2017 in Astana is a remarkable event, which not only opens doors for Kazakhstan in entering the international arena, but may also boost our bilateral cooperation in the field of tourism. In April 2017, we will mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Hungary and Kazakhstan and I believe that it is necessary to take advantage of the fact that this significant date coincides with EXPO 2017 in Astana,” said Szijjártó in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times prior to his visit.

Elaborating on the issue, the Kazakh minister called Hungarian entrepreneurs to examine new business opportunities within the implementation of the Nurly Zhol new economic policy, particularly considering the experience of Hungary in the green economy.

The countries have already launched projects to establish a joint fund to finance agricultural projects and a joint venture to implement the Hungarian system of charging tolls on significant roadways in Kazakhstan. At the Oct. 17 meeting in Milan, the Hungarian Prime Minister and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev agreedto establish a Hungarian-Kazakh investment fund, with both nations investing $20 million. The fund will focus on the support for small and medium-sized enterprises, a priority for both Kazakhstan and Hungary.

The parties also discussed cultural cooperation, another significant dimension of Kazakh-Hungarian relations since numerous Kipchak descendants live in Hungary.

“Both Hungary and Kazakhstan have mutual sympathy for each other. The common cultural roots are obvious; our traditions still exist through the descendants of the Hungarian Cumans, who are known as Kipchaks in Kazakhstan,” said Szijjártó in his interview.

During his stay, the Hungarian minister also met with Prime Minister Karim Massimov, Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Minister of Investment and Development Asset Issekeshev and Minister of National Economy Yerbolat Dossayev.